Dashes come in different sizes and are used for different purposes. The table below compares a hyphen with en and em dashes and shows how to obtain them from within Microsoft Word.
|Symbol||Name||Keys within MS Word (PC)|
|hyphen||minus or numeric-minus|
|en dash||Ctrl + numeric-minus|
|em dash||Ctrl + Alt + numeric-minus|
The en dash is the width of the letter 'n' - about half-again the width of a hyphen. The em dash is the width of the letter 'm' - about twice the width of a hyphen.
Most commonly used to indicate a span of figures, time or distance. E.g. The Lismore campus library is open from 9am–5pm.When used to indicate a span the en dash is generally not surrounded with spaces.
Em-dashEm dashes are commonly used instead of commas, when separating parenthical elements.
The most common use of em dashes is to isolate a parenthetic expression within a sentence.
E.g. Southern Cross University has three campuses - Coffs Harbour, Lismore and Gold Coast - with each offering a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. When used in this way, spaces should be used either side of the em-dash.
Updated: 26 April 2013